Two Female Entrepreneurs Invent Silent Partner “Keith Mann” to Be Taken Seriously

The sad thing is that it worked.

The next time someone tries to say that women and men have the same level of opportunity and are equally judged when it comes to business and entrepreneurship, tell them the story of Witchsy co-founders Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer.

The pair made headlines this week when it was revealed that the third founder of the quirky online art store, Keith Mann, was completely fictional.

“I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea.’” Dwyer told Fast Company.

“It was like night and day,” she said. “It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”

It’s clear that the two have much to be proud of–regardless of their fake male counterpart–just by looking at Witchsy’s numbers from last year alone. They grossed over $200,000 which largely goes back to the creators that contribute to the site, but Gazin and Dwyer still make a profit.

When giant online art megastore Etsy banned the selling of witch spells two years ago, Dwyer and Gazin took inspiration and opened Witchsy. It’s known for its dark, off-color humor, and has quickly become a haven for art consumers that need to stray off the beaten path.

None of this success is thanks to Keith Mann, despite what Witchsy’s investors may have been made to believe. But when all’s said and done, if there’s any lesson here, it’s that the battle for gender equality, particularly in the man’s world of American start-ups, is far from over.